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Coming soon: A new system that 'tastes' purity of water every minute

December 7, 2010 - Washington

German scientists have developed a new system that tests the purity of water every minute.

Instead of random water samples being treated every now and then, the AquaBioTox project will be added to create a system for constant real-time drinking water monitoring.

The heart of the system is a bio-sensor that reacts to a wide range of potentially hazardous substances after just a couple of minutes. It works on the taster principle.

That is, some drinking water is diverted from the main line through the sensor in a branching descending line and it contains two different strains of bacteria and mammalian cells.

On the one hand, these microscopically small bacteria have a large surface that guarantees quick material turnover and reacts to toxic substances within minutes.

On the other hand, the mammalian cells clinch the results because of their close relationship to the human organism and they also extend the range of reactions.

"We tested various classes of substances that might occur in water - even though they shouldn't - and to date our sensor has reacted to each of these substances," said Iris Trick from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology.

The micro-organisms in the sensor were modified so that they produce a Protein that has a red fluorescence. The fluorescence changes if it comes into contact with toxic substances.

Thomas Bernard, the group manager at the IOSB, said, "The monitoring unit has a machine-learning process for learning from historical data which fluctuations in the physical, chemical and biological parameters are normal. It sets off an alarm if an unusual pattern shows up in the signals."

The bio-sensor reacts to the smallest quantities of hazardous substances.


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